Unless you’ve been living in an underwater grotto for the past year or so, you know what today is: the U.S. premiere of Marvel Studios’ summer blockbuster, The Avengers. (Also known as Avengers Assemble, if you happen to live in the U.K. In which case, you already saw the movie a week ago.) While I didn’t feel compelled to queue up for a midnight showing, I do have the flick on my weekend to-do list.
In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to revisit a few pieces from my galleries featuring the heroes from the film’s roster of Avengers. It’s a much shorter list than the slate of current and past Avengers in the Marvel Comics universe, which, the last time I counted, has included more than 80 heroes and heroines over the superteam’s half-century of history.
Interestingly, there’s never been an incarnation of Avengers in the comics that included the movie’s Big Six — Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk — at the same time. The Hulk, a founding member of the team, ditched the others by the second issue of the original run. He made guest appearances in a couple more early stories, but was gone entirely by issue #6. To the best of my knowledge, ol’ Greenskin hasn’t been an active Avenger at any time since early 1964, a year before Hawkeye signed on, and nearly a decade before the Widow became a permanent member.
Let’s start with one of the first drawings I acquired when I began collecting original art. Thor faces off with his not-so-jolly green compadre in this scene penciled by Dan Jurgens and inked by Bob Almond.
Next up, here’s the Incredible One again, this time doing battle with yet another fellow founding Avenger, Iron Man. The late, great George Tuska — the definitive Iron Man artist of the 1970s — lent his potent pencil and imagination to this one.
People who don’t follow comics closely might assume that Captain America was an original Avenger, so identified is he with the team. In fact, Cap didn’t join until Avengers #4 — he was busy being frozen in ice prior to that. No sooner had the Star-Spangled Super-Soldier thawed out, though, that he became the heart and soul of the ever-changing ensemble, assuming his longtime leadership role in Avengers #16 when the remaining founding members — Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man (who’d changed his code name to Giant-Man by then), and the Wasp — departed en masse. Cap’s been the center of the Avengers most of the time since. Here he is with his doppelganger and one-time fellow Avenger, the U.S. Agent (or USAgent, if you prefer), as drawn by Ron Lim and embellished by Bob Almond.
The Black Widow didn’t become a full-fledged Avenger until 1973, though she made periodic guest shots before then. At the time she joined the team, the Widow was probably best known as the partner (both in and out of costume) of the blind crimefighter Daredevil, whose comic she co-headlined for four years. Readers of a certain age, however, will recall that before she settled in with the Man Without Fear, the spy formerly known as Natasha Romanoff starred in her own year-long series in Marvel’s Amazing Adventures in 1970 and ’71. In this Common Elements commission by Ty Romsa, the Widow chills with Silver Sable, one of the very few Marvel heroes who has never been an Avenger. (At least, not yet.)
Alas, I don’t have a solo drawing of Hawkeye in my collection. Which surprises me, because I’ve always liked the guy. (I’m tempted to throw up my Mike Grell Green Arrow instead, just to see whether anyone would even notice the difference.) He does, however, make an appearance in my Common Elements series, in a terrific piece drawn by the legendary Ernie Chan.
Go see The Avengers. But wait a day or two until the crowds thin out. It’ll still be the same movie, but you’ll be able to get a better seat.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.